INDIANA – Living in a region with blisteringly cold winters tends to make you somewhat of an expert on winter driving.
But skilled winter driving means more than just knowing what to do if you slide on ice or how to properly clean your windshield. It means staying on top of important vehicle maintenance, like checking exterior lights, having your battery tested, and regularly monitoring your tire pressure.
Just as importantly, it means packing a winter emergency kit to keep in your car throughout the season. The best way to guarantee your safety in the event you become stranded in your car during a winter snowstorm — besides not driving in the storm — is to pack a winter car emergency kit.
10 Items to Include in a Winter Emergency Car Kit
You likely have many items at home that you can use for your car’s winter emergency kit. The rest can be purchased relatively cheaply.
1. Phone Charger
Phones have become one of the most important resources in an emergency, so ensuring you can keep them powered is essential.
In addition to a charging cord, I also recommend purchasing a power bank (aka portable charger) in case your car cannot provide the power to charge your phone.
If you don’t have extras at home, you can order cheap chargers and power banks that will work fine in an emergency.
2. Flashlight and Batteries
While most phones include flashlights, it is handy to have a flashlight that you can use to look under the hood or car if you are attempting to repair an issue yourself. Just make sure it has fresh batteries.
3. Multi-Purpose Radio
If your vehicle loses all power and you can’t charge your phone, a battery-powered or crank radio might be your only source of emergency information.
Radios come cheap these days, but you can also skip the cost of a flashlight and phone charging power bank with a multi-purpose hand-crank radio on Amazon.
4. Hats, Gloves and Blankets
You should always bring a coat with you if traveling in the winter, but it can’t hurt to keep additional winter gear in the trunk.
If you have extra hats, gloves, scarves, socks, and blankets at home, just grab those. If not, buy some secondhand at a thrift store, since these are meant to be for survival, not style.
Cost: $0 to $20
5. Foldable Shovel
If you lose control and drive off the road, you might find it challenging to get your vehicle out of the snow. Having a small shovel, preferably one that folds up can be handy in such a scenario.
6. Road Salt or Kitty Litter
Shovels aren’t your only saving grace if you get stuck in the snow. Road salt can provide much-needed traction. You can purchase an affordable 5-pound bag to keep in the back of your car. Kitty litter or sand will also do the trick.
7. Snacks and Water
If you are stranded for several hours or longer, it’s important to stay hydrated and keep your energy up. Pack a case of bottled water to store in the trunk if you can afford the space, and include a bag of high-protein snacks that don’t expire quickly, like nuts and protein bars.
8. Flares and Jumper Cables
You should have flares and jumper cables in your car year-round, but this is especially important in the winter when it gets dark earlier and when car batteries are more susceptible to dying. You can find a highway flare kit and jumper cables at your neighborhood auto store or online.
9. First Aid Kit
Another year-round staple is a first aid kit, which should include bandages, tweezers, scissors, tape, antiseptic cream, painkillers, bug bite cream, and burn cream. You can find compact first aid kits online that contain travel-sized essentials.
Having some basic tools, including an ice scraper, at your disposal can come in handy during a true winter emergency. A multi-tool, like a Swiss army knife, can be especially useful.